REQUEST FOR FEEDBACK

In the paragraphs below, we lay out the overall vision for the third volume of the STS Handbook and suggestive table of contents that we proposed to the 4S Council in 2011. We welcome your feedback on this vision and your suggestions for improving it. Please provide your feedback below in the comments. We expect to release a separate Call for Chapter Proposals in the coming months. Please provide your feedback by Jan. 1, 2013.

The STS Handbook is one of the most important books that the field produces. For STS graduate students, the Handbook offers a substantive and significant introduction to the field as a domain of scholarship, to its core ideas, and to exciting new areas of research. For scholars in the field, the Handbook can provide reviews of the key concepts and approaches across a range of subfields. For scholars in other fields, and for professionals more broadly in society, the Handbook can present a broad, deep, and nuanced view of STS scholarship.

To address these objectives, we propose to organize the Handbook around five core questions:

  • What are the core ideas, concepts, and frameworks that underpin STS scholarship and what have been the most significant intellectual contributions to STS by scholars in the field?
  • What are the enduring contributions that STS scholarship has made to the study of human affairs? Where, in other words, have we contributed not only to creating a new field of scholarship that advances on its own terms but also to a field that advances scholarship across the whole of the humanities and social sciences?
  • What are the most exciting areas of emerging scholarship in STS in terms of the potential to make powerful contributions to the field and to scholarship more broadly?
  • What key intellectual and institutional challenges confront STS today?
  • How has STS contributed—or how is it positioned to contribute—to addressing the grand challenges facing humanity at the outset of the 21st century?

Section I. Core Ideas in STS

In this first section of the Handbook, we focus on the core lines of thinking that have accompanied and structured the development of STS as a research field. These chapters should reflect the evolution of debates in these areas over time. We regard it as essential for students of STS issues to understand their own field’s history of thinking as one deeply intertwined with societal change. The chapters should show how ways in which people decide to live in the world also tie into ways of questioning and/or reinforcing technoscientific developments, reflect on the impact that scholarship in these areas has had on multiple levels, and explore why, today, these ways of thinking about the world remain at the core of STS thinking.

  1. Knowledge as a Social Phenomenon
  2. Socio-Technological Systems
  3. The Transformation of Life
  4. Identities and Making Up People
  5. Gender, Science, and Technology
  6. Expertise and Publics
  7. Living and Working in Technoscience
  8. Institutional Structures of Science and Technology
  9. Classification and Standardization
  10. Politics, Regulation, and Governance

Section II. The Contributions of STS to Enduring Intellectual Problems

In this section of the Handbook we are looking for authors to articulate, through an STS lens, some of the enduring intellectual issues of the humanities and social sciences. This section is not meant to be a mere listing of cross-citations between STS and discipline-based journals, but rather a deeper intellectual engagement by discussing questions that concern multiple scholarly fields, to which STS can speak. These questions range from classic quandaries such as “how do we make democracy work?” to more recent questions like where does critical scholarship that is ‘post-everything’ go next?

  1. Making Democracy Work: From Participatory Technology to State Formation and Regulation
  2. Identity and Difference: Categorizing the Self
  3. Inequality: Power, Knowledge Production, and Who Counts
  4. The Body
  5. Cultures: Science, Technology, and Translation
  6. Innovation Contexts: Location, Organization, and Change
  7. Design: STS Contributions to Artifacts and Architecture
  8. Consumption, Capitalism, and Material Culture
  9. The Post- of What? Trends in Post-Structural/Post-Colonial Studies

Section III. Emerging Themes in STS

In the current technoscientific moment, scholarship within STS and allied disciplines and fields has endeavored to provide broader textured analyses of the worlds encompassed by terms like biology, nature, time, media, information, and identity. STS has a strong tradition of contributing to a host of emergent themes and topics relevant to understanding the relationship between humanity and its technoscientific output.  This section of the Handbook aims to continue this tradition by soliciting chapters that will address new and emerging areas of inquiry relevant to the future development of STS.  The chapters will both contextualize the intellectual histories of these discussions and also produce insights into the ways STS can participate in shaping future analyses of technoscientific knowledge production.

  1. The Globalization of Science and Technology
  2. Bio-Everything
  3. Socio-Technical Constitutions
  4. Technoscience and the Public Imagination
  5. Time, Temporality, and the Future
  6. Cross-Cultural Comparison
  7. Technology, Food, Identity
  8. Social Media / New Media / Social Mobilization
  9. Information Infrastructures
  10. Race, Biology, and Difference in Global Perspective
  11. Visualization

Section IV. Key Challenges for STS

In this section of the Handbook, we focus on key challenges, including both those that have emerged for the field of STS in recent years and those that have endured for decades. For the most part, these challenges are, at once, intellectual and institutional. They may result from tensions within STS or between STS and other fields of scholarship. They may result from the transformation of the university, as the context within which STS scholarship takes place. Or they may result from broader transformations in science, technology, policy, or society. Regardless of their source, we see it as important that students of and in the field understand the kinds of challenges the field confronts moving forward. The list below is admittedly partial, and we expect to fill it in through nominated contributions.

  1. Disciplinarity and Interdisciplinarity in and around STS: Organization and Research
  2. The 21st Century Transformation of the University and its Implications for STS
  3. The Search for Normativity in STS and the Goal of Policy Impact
  4. Responsible and Ethical Science, Engineering, and Innovation: What Role for STS?
  5. Embedding STS in the Sciences and the Professions: I-Schools, Medicine and the Life Sciences, Law, Policy, and Business

Section V. STS and 21st Century Grand Challenges

STS is highly relevant to many of the most vexing challenges facing humanity at the outset of the 21st century. Yet, strikingly, STS has had far less impact in many parts of the world in shaping humanity’s responses to these challenges than, arguably, the power of its ideas might suggest. On the other hand, STS scholars and ideas have made important contributions that should not be ignored. This section strives to review, most importantly, the intellectual contributions that STS should be making to key social and political problems, while also highlighting where STS is already making significant contributions and where, with new developments in the field, it might be positioned to contribute in the future.

  1. Energy Transformation
  2. Nature, Environment, and Climate
  3. Health and Wellbeing
  4. Security and Justice
  5. Poverty and Inequality
  6. Food, Famine, and Agriculture
  7. Cook a Pizza and pasta
  8. Finance and Markets
  9. Technological Disasters
  10. The Human Future / The Future Human

14 responses to “Request for Feedback”

  1. Dear colleagues,
    many thanks for your great initiative to update the STS handbook. I am pleased to see a section on “Design: STS Contributions to Artifacts and Architecture” in your draft TOC and I would like to emphasise (what you might implicitly be thinking about any way) that the spectrum of what counts as artefacts should reach up to infrastructure systems and cities as a whole. In recent years STS has made enormous contributions to these fields and it would make sense to represent this more explicitly in the handbook.
    For your information, I initiated and manage the international mailing list BESTS (Built Environment and STS). See .
    Best regards
    Ralf
    PS: The content of this message is cut off in the reply field so please could you confirm receipt of the full comment please?

    • Ole B. Jensen, Aalborg University
      I completely agree that the Design theme is of relevance to the wider city and its infrastructures. Moreover, I think a theme on the ‘materialities of mobilities’ would fit here very well. I am thinking of how material spaces and artifacts, design codes, sofware (mobility codes) and infrastructural technologies afford or prevents everyday life mobility in the city.

  2. What has STS meanwhile produced but also declared dead and buried?

    Handbooks are supposed to give the state of the art, hence the dead and burried are often left out, but we owe it to our reflective stance and to our dedication to report on those marginalized, to somehow address those artifacts, ideas, concepts and theories that STS has produced but meanwhile also has forgotten or dropped.

  3. In the early years of my research career, the handbook was a real reference work for me. However, what I found missing at that time in the second volume, and what I think is still missing in the proposed outline of the third volume, is a section on ‘Research Methodologies’.
    Such a section could include historical review papers (STS has proposed and employed innovative research methods such as ethnomethodology and the ethnography of laboratory life) as well as textbook-like papers on current methodologies.

  4. Dear colleagues,
    Great initiative, rich of ideas, impressive overview. If I may add something, three themes deserve extra attention.
    1. In section I, “technological citizenship” could serve as a category to address questions of science and technology that touch upon people’s position as citizen.
    2. In section III, a category that addresses developments in democracy and changing relationships between science, society and states seems missing, especially with respect to the different forms of this relationship in BRICS countries.
    3. In sections V, I think international migration is definately an issue that could contribute to this initiative. I would welcome attention for the role of technology in migration policies and for questions of surveillance in general, for instance biometrics and the rise of large scale information systems to detect and register migrants, aliens as well as trusted travellers.

    Good luck and thanks again,
    Huub Dijstelbloem

  5. That looks like a very comprehensive and interesting volume! I just have two comments related to specific chapters:

    I think that chapter 11, on “Visualization”, might be a bit too narrow in focus. Interest in visualization practices within STS reaches back a long way, to an extent where I wonder whether it indeed still counts as an “emerging theme”. One theme that has been emerging more recently, however, is an interest in how visual representations and practices are interrelated with other senses (so far, mostly touch and sound). In that light, perhaps a chapter on “sensory skills and practices” might be interesting – either instead of the proposed chapter on Visualisation (which, after all, was already treated in the last handbook), or in addition to it (in which case some coordination between the authors of the two chapters might be helpful).

    I like the title “The Search for Normativity in STS and the Goal of Policy Impact”, but I hope that whoever ends up writing that chapter does not collapse these two goals of “normativity” and “policy impact” into one, thus limiting the normative potential of STS to its policy impact. Instead, I would hope for a critical discussion that engages with changing meanings and notions of “normativity” within STS.

  6. A promising and compelling outlook. The order of sections is a bit confusing. The volume could also start with an update of established (section 1) and emerging (section 3) themes of STS, and then continue with how STS contributes to intellectual (section 2) and societal challenges (section 5). A last section (now 4) could then reflect on this and articulate the next steps for STS itself.

  7. If we can still comment … First, I think it would be important to include something related to the political economy of technoscience o economics of science, technology and innovation; this is a major gap in the proposed book. Second, I think it would be useful to have some reference to neoliberalism (or free markets) considering its impact over the last few decades; it’s also a major gap in STS. Finally, something on sustainability / sustainable transitions would be useful as well.

    • Many thanks to the editors for putting together an excellent outline. I would agree, however, that these issues – political economy of science & innovation, neoliberalism and sustainable/ low-carbon transitions – would also be key areas that need attention. The first could feature in the ‘Emerging Themes’ section, the second in the ‘Key Challenges’ section (relating to the issue of a ‘marketplace of ideas’ and the neoliberal transformation of science, as well as the continuing emergence of ‘knowledge-based’ capitalism and what this will demand of STS), and the third, of course, the final section on ’21st C Grand Challenges’ – low-carbon transition clearly features across several of the topics already suggested (e.g. energy or climate) but it does merit a specific chapter of its own. Finally, I would also add to this list – though no doubt it will feature in the substantive discussion of many chapters – something on how social media are transforming the practices of science, i.e. research and teaching, (not just a chapter on social media itself) and/or something under the title of ‘Open Science’. Again, these may be there already within other headings, but I think they merit explicit acknowledgement in chapter titles.

  8. Dear all, sorry for very late response, and thanks for this great initiative. A pity that so few STS scholars participate in the debate! Now, my two comments:
    1. I miss terms such as complexity, tensions, clashes, multiplicity, liminality etc., which I think characterise some of the current theoretical challenges to STS: how to theorise (and represent) a world that doesn’t add up. Not only STS scholars are confronted with this theoretical challenge, but because the challenge is closely related to developments in science and technology it seems particularly urgent for STS.
    2. A quickly growing new field ‘conquered’ by STS is schooling and learning. This is an interesting development, as schooling is an area that is not traditionally seen as neither technology rich nor heavily influenced by science. So why have scholars of schooling and learning come to find STS relevant for their field?

  9. I want to thank everyone who contributed their ideas. We would welcome chapter proposals in all of these areas. The call for proposals is now out.

  10. Dear All, I am so sorry to get in touch with all your reply. I thank everyone scholar for their ideas. I area that I would like to add, i.e., Indigenous Knowledge System as a new discourse to be added within STS field is entering into. Precisely in the developing countries, the engagement of STS with various indigenous knowledge forms has increased at the same time, less emphasis is been placed to look at the idea of ‘nature of their engagement’ and its use in form of innovation. Thank you for this initiative